Lightning Welk – The State Shell of Texas

Lightning Welk – The State Shell of Texas

In 1987 “The Ledge”, to borrow a term from the late columnist and author Molly Ivins when referring to the Texas Legislature, designated the Lightning Welk as the official state shell of Texas.

The large and distinctive Lightning Welk is found only in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast Atlantic coast of the USA. These shells have inhabited our waters for 60 million years and have been significant to cultures in our history. Native Americans used welks as food, housewares, weapons, jewelry, and religious ceremonies. They have also been found in burial grounds. Left-handed shells are considered sacred in some parts of Asia and India. Because the Lightning Welk has become quite popular with collectors, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has enacted protective regulations to prevent over harvesting thus limiting a reduction in the Lightning Welk population.

The Lightning Welk is distinguishable by the counter-clockwise coiling of its whorls and the aperture or opening on the left. They are often called “left-handed”. A Lightening Welk will grow to a maximum size of 8 inches in 10 t0 20 years; however, some have reached 16 inches.

The Lightning Welk photographs in this blog were taken at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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5 thoughts on “Lightning Welk – The State Shell of Texas”

  1. We found many of these on the beaches of Padre and when swimming out to the sand bars. We always just called them hermit crab shells. Thanks for teaching me once again! See y’all soon!

  2. I have seen Lightning Welks (don’t think we called them that) all my life…but never thought of them as being “left-handed”. Indee, they are!!! Thanks for our Saturday science lesson…?

  3. Michael, never heard of the Lightening Welk. Seen them, but you have given me the needed information for when I’m looking at those shells again. Especially the “left-handed” knowledge.

  4. Mike, I am amazed by the topics you choose to share with us? I would have enjoyed being a student in your class when you taught! Thanks for all this new knowledge my friend…

  5. While I still don’t understand this, I truly appreciate your attempts to educate us. I picked these up on beaches, never knowing what they were….

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